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Our Fourth Encounter

Youths from Tanjong Katong Girls School

We chose to focus our play If These Wheels Could Speak… on cerebral palsy to shine a light on this commonly stereotyped and overlooked disability. As a club, we wanted to let people with cerebral palsy feel more recognised. We also wanted the audience to overcome common stereotypes of cerebral palsy, for example the dismissive notion that all people with cerebral palsy are mentally retarded and have a lower IQ than most people.

We wanted to help share the stories and struggles of people with cerebral palsy and advocate for them. Although we are unable to fully understand and replicate all that they feel and face, we hope through our efforts, the audience can put themselves in the shoes of those with cerebral palsy. As the audience have a deeper understanding of the struggles that they face, hopefully they will be more mindful about their own actions and thoughts, when they meet people with cerebral palsy in future.

- Shared by Shreya Bijoy, class 3E5

Youths from Tanjong Katong Girls School

I play Mdm Salmah in If These Wheels Could Speak… the Literature teacher of our main character Natasha. She's a relatively relaxed teacher, but is stern when she has to be. Despite having no prior experience with students with disabilities, she tries her very best to treat Natasha like a normal student. Unfortunately, she has to neglect Natasha many times due to time constraints (Natasha has difficulty speaking, so she speaks a little slowly). She struggles and gets a little frustrated between trying to juggle Natasha’s needs and the needs of the rest of the class. However, she does her utmost to motivate Natasha as she teaches Natasha her favourite subject.

- Shared by Aisyah Humairah Binte Mohamad Idhamsahbani, class 3E1

Youths from Tanjong Katong Girls School

There was so much that I loved about the research process, but one thing I found really memorable was the Day Camp that we had at Dunman High during the June holidays back in 2019. We got to listen to the insights of people with disabilities, as well as their family members — hearing their stories gave me a wider understanding of how others are affected by society's perceptions on disability.

A talk by Stephanie, a speaker with cerebral palsy, was an especially insightful one: listening to her experiences and learning how she dealt with her problems, as well as how she put her emotions into writing, struck a chord with me. During the devising of the script, I took inspiration from how

Stephanie used poetry to express herself, and used this to help shape the main character of our play If These Wheels Could Speak…: a strong-willed, intelligent young lady with a great deal to say about the world around her.

- Shared by Lisa Chong, class 4E5

Youths from Tanjong Katong Girls School

If These Wheels Could Speak… will be presented as an online staged reading, due to the safe measures to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.

Not being able to perform at the esplanade recital studio made me feel disappointed, as I was looking forward to performing there. Performing at the Esplanade is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience that not many get the chance to have. So receiving the news that we no longer would be able to was definitely disheartening.

Rehearsing online has been a bit challenging as there were times when the audio would lag making it hard to coordinate saying lines with the others. There were also quite a few times that members had forgotten to unmute their microphones when saying their lines, which caused small disruptions during filming. While I’m disappointed that we lost the chance to perform on stage in real life, I don’t regret the process or the preparations we made!

- Shared by Lau Kyla, class 3E7

Youths from Tanjong Katong Girls School

I feel that before I got involved in the play If These Wheels Could Speak… I was not actively interested in the types of disabilities that were present in this society and merely grouped them all under one umbrella.

After undergoing different types of workshops to better understand the complications that a person with disabilities experience, I have learned not to take things at face value, and see past someone's disability.

I’ve learned that we shouldn’t be saying ‘disabled people’, but instead ‘people with disabilities’, as they should be recognised as people and not their disability. As more people are gaining awareness, I look forward to the day where these stereotypes can finally be torn down.

- Shared by Lee Hoi Tung Elsa, class 3E7

Youths from Dunman High School

We chose to focus on the condition of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as we felt that people with ADHD are often misunderstood and undervalued in our current society. Many assume that people with ADHD are just fidgety and difficult to care for, but what many do not realise is that people with ADHD have many other innate traits and talents that we do not see due to a lack of opportunities. Through our performance, we hope to contribute to the wider movement of bringing awareness to the struggles of this condition and to correct any misconceptions and misunderstandings along the way.

- Shared by Wilson Lim

Youths from Dunman High School

My character in The Other People is Brayden Ang who has ADHD and our performance traces the evolving relationships he shares with his family members and peers. I personally relate to this character on several levels and hope that my performance would do the character justice in bringing across the issues and concerns faced by those with this condition in an effective and sympathetic manner.

- Shared by Roderick Foo

Youths from Dunman High School

The memorable part of our research process for The Other People was the various interactions we had with people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as well as their family members. One of those who had kindly shared her experiences with us was Ms Tina Tan, Vice President of SPARK (Society for the Promotion of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Research & Knowledge). SPARK is a non-profit organisation set up to raise public awareness of ADHD, promote understanding and research, as well as to help families with ADHD children cope better with the disorder. One of Ms Tan’s children has ADHD and she candidly shared her family’s journey in adapting to the needs of her child. She also took the opportunity to clear several misconceptions which the general public may have with regard to the disorder. Ms Tan’s account was eye-opening and invaluable and helped us to further shape our dramatic approach to the disability.

- Shared by Ong Jun Sean

Youths from Dunman High School

It was of course a missed opportunity and we felt sad and disappointed that we were not able to bring our vision of the piece on stage in front of a live audience.

We initially thought that the entire festival was to be called off and our efforts come to naught, but when we learnt that we would be changing the format of the performance to an online, Zoom setting, we were excited about the opportunity to explore and rediscover new ways to present our performance! Rehearsing online was a very new experience and we of course encountered countless technical difficulties and clashes in coordination. Still, with the support of our teachers and director, Ms Suping, we rose to the challenge and I’m personally quite pleased with the final product. I hope that this will be an interesting and memorable Staged Reading for our audience!

- Shared by Jamie Kam

Youths from Dunman High School

The idea of living with a disability used to scare me – the unknowns and the unforeseen changes – I didn’t know how I would react to them and thought about the differences between those with and without disabilities.

Through this process, I have learnt to empathise with those who have disabilities, and better understand the challenges they face in their daily lives. What’s more important is one’s spirit and mind – the only means to overcome these obstacles comes from within. It is never easy on people with disabilities and they deserve more care and love. Furthermore, we should also extend that level of concern and consideration to those who takes care and looks after those with disabilities.

Before the play, I was not very aware of the stigma surrounding people with disabilities. I didn’t think much of it. Even in the midst of preparing for the play, I saw ADHD as an invisible condition and because I couldn’t see it physically, I was prone to my own judgements and opinions. However, through my experience rehearsing and preparing for this performance, I have indeed come to view this disability in a new light. I am more empathetic towards people with disabilities and it made me realise that they are not that different from myself – a fellow human being who thrives from love and support.

- Shared by Nyx Kwek and Mabel Khor